Tell Me a Story
One of my fondest memories as a child was when I had the chance to spend time one-on-one with one of my parents — especially when we were reading a story. My mother, especially, helped me develop a love for the written word. I still remember the delight and amazement I felt when I got my very first library card and walked into the children’s section. It was filled to the brim with everything I could only begin to imagine. And even before I could read words on a page, the pictures in those books told me the story. Those memories are even more dear to me now since I lost my mother in November 2017, and my father in December 2018.
Storytelling — whether through written or spoken words, or images — is a powerful tool to engage any audience and inspire them to action.
Keith Quesenberry, a researcher at Johns Hopkins, published a paper in the Fall 2014 issue of The Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice. In it, Quesenberry and his research partner, Michael Coolsen, focused on brands’ use of specific strategies to sell products, such as featuring cute animals or sexy celebrities. But they also coded the commercials for plot development.
According to an article in the Harvard Business Review by Harrison Monarth, “They found that, regardless of the content of the ad, the structure of that content predicted its success. ‘People are attracted to stories,’ Quesenberry said, ‘because we’re social creatures and we relate to other people.’”
And honestly, the old adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” is still true. For brands, and especially for nonprofits, visual storytelling — using photos, video, and/or graphics — is a much more effective form of communication than the written word alone. And since 65% of people are visual learners according to the Social Science Research Network, one of the best ways to drive a message home is through visual content.
Looking back on how humans have been communicating since the dawn of time, it’s really no surprise that stories — and especially stories with pictures — are still effective today. It also shouldn’t be a surprise for those of us in the sign and graphics industry. Each and every day, we see brands using images to drive engagement and awareness.
Earlier this year, NAPCO Research surveyed more than 1,100 companies that purchased signs and graphics. More than 400 nonprofit companies responded to this survey, and it was interesting to see how they’re using visual mediums — such as banners, posters, signs, and photography — to bring awareness to fundraising efforts. And their use of these mediums continues to grow, with 31% reporting increased spending in the sign and graphics space, and another 43% say their spending is staying the same. What are nonprofits’ top two reasons for using signs and graphics? To promote products, services, and events, and attract customers’ attention to their products.
While visual storytelling won’t replace a nonprofit’s tried and true fundraising efforts — such as events, data collection, direct mail, and personal contact — signs and graphics are certainly important tools to reinforce those efforts and keep up with today’s trends in content consumption.
Denise Gustavson is the Editorial Director and Special Projects Editor for the Printing & Packaging Group, which includes Printing Impressions, packagePRINTING, In-plant Graphics and Wide-Format Impressions magazines, among other brands. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of Wide-Format Impressions.